"I'm going to rip the head off the Kubota, force penetrating oil into it, and bang on it with a hammer." It sounded like my dad was outlining his gladiatorial plans for conquering a beast from another planet, but he was actually talking about trying to resurrect one of our three generators that had each abruptly died on us for different reasons. The generator shed was now The Mausoleum.
It wasn't the most sophisticated plan of attack, but there really wasn't much more you could do out in the wilderness with a frozen-up generator. Besides, desperate times required desperate measures. We had just done a huge fall stock-up (more on that in a blog post to come) and our freezers were bulging at the seams. If we didn't find a way to get a generator running we were in danger of losing the lot.
The weather, at least, was in our favor, hanging around the forties with occasional side trips into the low fifties. As long as we didn't have a freak heatwave we'd probably do all right. The fact that the freezers were so full would help to keep everything in them cold.
In the meantime we scrambled to get a generator functioning and get a new one sent out as quickly as possible from Ketchikan, calling around to see if anyone was taking a trip out in a boat since the mail plane wouldn't be coming out for more days than our freezers could stand. No one was.
When it rains it pours and I discovered, when my inverter system gave a warning squeal, that my 8D battery hadn't been taking a full charge before the historical, great generator die-off event occurred. With no way to re-charge my electronic devices I was being thrown back into the pre-email antique, pen and paper mode of communication.
Before I lost the last ounce of juice I sent out messages warning that I was about to lose all electronic communications for the foreseeable future. I felt a bit like those astronauts heading into the shadow of the dark side of the moon.
My dad, not entirely convinced that mortal combat with the Kubota would result in anything useful, decided to rejuvenate a 1980s-era Honda generator that was almost as old as I was with a new engine that he'd bought for a cart he was going to make. He had to hand cut chunks of pipe for spacers since the mounts were different, in order to make everything line up. He had the patchwork machine cobbled together when he called me in to put on some washers and nuts and tighten them down. I could get into places he couldn't with my smaller hands.
After he did a few trial and error attempts to get an adjustable drive belt as tight as possible on the new engine and aged generator, we filled the shiny, never used tank with gas, filled the reservoir with oil, switched on the ignition and choke, held our breaths, prayed, and pulled on the recoil.
To our amazement it took right off on the third pull and purred along in a chummy, kindly fashion that made us take it to our hearts immediately. We basked in the smelly, loud ambience of the patchwork generator for a few moments, yelling our congratulations to each other, before we turned our attention to running extension cords to freezers and our houses. I had to take my kitchen apart to get at one extension cord. Another I unfurled and laid across the walk planks and logs from my dad's shop--where the generator resided--and across the mud and seaweed to my floathouse.
Until we can get a new generator out here, which we need to do as soon as possible since there's no telling how long the patchwork generator will hold up, we'll be stepping over extension cords and playing musical freezers (only one can be plugged in at a time). But my dad's mad skills with engines of all kinds has saved our bacon--literally--once again.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)